Often when teams acquire veteran talent in their bye weeks, it means they are desperate. You expect that kind of move from a 1-5 team, not one which is 5-1.
Welcome to the new normal in the NFL.
GM Eric DeCosta did it again. One year after DeCosta acquired All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters from the Los Angeles Rams before the trade deadline, the general manager agreed in principle to a trade for Pro Bowl defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.
To land one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers, the Ravens sent a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Ngakoue, a 2016 third-round pick out of Maryland, has 42.5 sacks in 69 career games, including five sacks in six games this year after being traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Vikings before the start of the season.
The arrival of pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue dominated the conversation in this week’s Ravens Mailbag, and for good reason. He’s a Pro Bowler with a proven track record of getting after the quarterback, and he’s poised to help make the Ravens’ top-ranked defense even better. I don’t expect Ngakoue to need long before making an impact. Yes, he’s changing teams and learning a new defense, but we’ve seen other players make quick transitions to this Ravens defense (anyone remember that pick-six Marcus Peters had against Seattle last year a few days after getting traded?). The timing of the trade was also good of Ngakoue, as he’s had five days to dive into the playbook before stepping onto the practice field. The Ravens could also help ease the transition process by initially using him in limited pass-rush packages. His best trait is getting after the quarterback, and he knows how to do that regardless of the scheme.
In terms of having the best defense, the Ravens have allowed the fewest points per game in the NFL (17.3). They are allowing 339.8 yards per game, which ranks ninth-best in the NFL, and this week they’ll face off with a Steelers defense that has allowed the fewest yards per game (286.3) in the league. Both teams believe they have the NFL’s best defense, and we’ll see who comes out of Sunday’s game with bragging rights.
As if that weren’t enough new blood in, a wide receiver long rumored to be of interest to the Ravens has finally arrived. Three-time Pro Bowler Dez Bryant has been signed to the practice squad.
Bryant has been on the Ravens’ radar for years, including recently. He left town unsigned after a training camp tryout in August. Now, with the Ravens coming off their bye week and looking for more ammunition at wide receiver, the pairing and timing worked.
On the practice squad, Bryant can continue to get game ready and be called up at any time. He can be activated to play on gameday twice before he would have to be added to the 53-man roster. To make room for Bryant, the Ravens released defensive back Marcus Gilchrist from the practice squad.
The 31-year-old Bryant has maintained his desire to return to the NFL, though he has not played in a game since December of 2017. It’s clear that getting another shot in the NFL means a lot to the veteran.
The Ravens reportedly offered Bryant a multi-year deal before the 2018 season, but he turned it down and instead signed a one-year contract with the New Orleans Saints in November. However, he suffered a torn Achilles in his first practice and never dressed for a game.
Bryant’s best NFL seasons came with the Dallas Cowboys where he spent eight seasons (2010-17) and had 531 receptions, 7,459 yards and 73 touchdowns. From 2012-14, Bryant had at least 88 catches, 1,200 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns and he made the Pro Bowl in 2013, 2014 and 2016.
A prolific possession receiver in his prime, Bryant joins a Ravens team that is ranked 31st in the league in passing offense. Bryant excelled at making contested catches and red zone receptions in Dallas, using his size (6-foot-2, 220 pounds), strong hands and body control to win one-on-one battles with cornerbacks.
He was the 24th pick in the 2010 draft (the Ravens were set to pick at No. 25 but the Cowboys traded ahead of them and became a key to Dallas’ offense from Day 1). With the Ravens, he will get an opportunity to prove he can help a Super Bowl contender while adding toughness and experience at the wide receiver position.
Dez Bryant hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2017, but pundits expect the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver to be catching passes from Lamar Jackson sooner than later.
Many classified it as a low-risk, high reward signing for the Ravens.
“The last time Bryant played in an NFL game, Jackson was throwing touchdown passes at Louisville,” ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote. “It seems highly unlikely Bryant would get elevated to the active roster for Sunday’s showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Nov. 8 game at Indianapolis is a more realistic target, but there are no guarantees. That’s why Bryant was signed to [a] practice squad and not [a] 53-man roster. It’s the ultimate prove-it situation.”